July 06, 2011

Goodnight Gentleman George

While in my Adult Basic Education training days, I had a number of one-to-one students that I was paired up with.  My key worker, Mary, gave me 3 totally different characters with equally different backgrounds to work with.  The main objective was to give the students, who were all cared for by the local government and lived in the same building, a bit more freedom and independence.  So learning times, bus routes, monitery values, and how to use sign and symbols were all part of the learning scheme.  More than anything, the classes were a befriending system.  Just being surrounded by people and made to feel valued and similar was probably more helpful than any educating that went on.  And in this world, it is sad to know that adults with learning difficulties, some coming with conditions they were born to, still get a hard time from society. 

The classes ended quite a few years ago to allow the new community and health centres to be built.  They have now reopened but despite getting my Community Education  certificate, it is something I'm not sure if I want to consider working at again.  My own life's circumstances had to be addressed and for now, I guess I'm enjoying what time I have with my older son's while I can .  University and colleges have them full time for now, but even with that and part time jobs, I'm seeing more of them since their school days and want to pack in as much music and laughter as I can with them.  My husband shares no common interests with me now, so I want to feel a bit love-cocooned before empty-nest syndrome takes over completely.  My daughter was only 16 when a London career snatched her away!

Anyhow, rambling on.....today I was returning from a bit local shopping, when I bumped into my old key-worker's daughter, Shirley.  She passed on the news that Gentleman George had died last year.  George had Down's Syndrome, born to fairly old parents to start with, and was the oldest student of the group.  Not a day went by where he never wore a tie, his father dressed accordingly no matter the weather or occasion.  In summer, he would wear a short-sleeved shirt, with shorts, sock, sandals and a tie.  No encouragement to leave the tie off ever worked, and it gained him his gentlemanly title.  He was 68, which is fairly rare for a person with Down's to reach.

George didn't always like new tutors or indeed care assistants, for he did have certain values.  He hated being treated with kid gloves, or overly-fussed about.  Mary just chucked me in at the deep end with George, and whatever it was, we seemed to click.  My methods of common teaching were accepted - not all without little struggles - by George.  I remember at the end of my first class with him, Mary asked what he thought of me and he answered :

        "She'll do.  She's nice. She straightened my tie and said pardon when she burped!"

You'd have thought I'd won a massive victory with the relief and love I felt at that moment.  Thing was, although George was attending these classes, there was no way he'd ever be able to travel or shop on his own.  But the confidence, happiness and politeness that came with George was more a lesson to me than the world will ever know.  Funny how life pans out, sometimes.

Goodnight George. I'll keep using those 'morning and night' mug colours you were so fond of when we were drinking our tea.

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